Just as she had a list of items, concepts and behavior that were “not done,” she also had things — sometimes counterintuitive things — that were acceptable or to be encouraged (“done”). Some of these are very telling.


Frosting in a can (my mother and health-nut sister both had the habit of eating this from the can!)

Refrigerated pre-fab pie crust (NOT the dry graham cracker crust in the aluminum pans, the one from the dairy section that comes folded)

Kentucky Fried Chicken (rarely)

Exceptionally lavish Christmases

Vanilla whipped cream made from scratch, and lots of it

Serving veggies (fresh cooked, frozen or canned) with generous real butter and salt (“Kids will eat them if they taste good.”)

Massive holiday baking projects (Meticulously crafted gingerbread houses, rolled sugar cookies with frosting and sprinkles of all kinds, pecan sandies in powdered sugar, spritz cookies, fudge)

Brownies from a box (“good enough”)

Saving tinfoil

Swimming (essential if given the opportunity, no matter how impractical)

Marathon Sunday cooking projects (I remember an excellent Bolognese she spent hours making after reading the recipe in the Sunday Boston Globe magazine)

Being a “natural athlete,” however specious a concept this might be applied to our family, especially in regard to tennis

Complaining about prices in shops, to shop workers (to my eternal shame….)

Blowout parties

Exotic cooking projects including a Korean dish in little clay pots, also homemade bread

Copious, never-ending amounts of wine (the cheaper and more generic, the better. My father used to say ruefully my mother would not need to alter her taste in wine if she were ever to become a bag lady.)

Inventive, labor-intensive table settings

Intense flavors and colors on the table, in the food and surroundings

Sweeping creative art projects like murals, batiks and knitting

Sleeping very, very late


Reading and reading and reading

Eating outside on the patio, porch or deck

Beautifully set tables

Open doors and windows, year round, regardless of mosquitos, flies and spiders

Extreme pragmatism about death (her own and others’)

Fruit salad served with the meal (never at dessert)

“Good enough”





Driving with an open coffee mug on the dashboard


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